Pasta Carbonara Recipe

Pasta Carbonara on a plate

The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 25 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yield: 1 pound pasta
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
537 Calories
32g Fat
38g Carbs
23g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 537
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 32g 41%
Saturated Fat 11g 55%
Cholesterol 358mg 119%
Sodium 2489mg 108%
Total Carbohydrate 38g 14%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 23g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 180mg 14%
Iron 3mg 18%
Potassium 240mg 5%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Silky and rich, pasta carbonara is a much-loved dish because of the simplicity of its ingredients and the ease of preparation. Many legends surround the origins of carbonara, but most agree that it originated in Rome in the mid-20th century.

A classic pasta carbonara is a simple combination of pasta, eggs, pork, cheese, a splash of pasta water, salt and pepper. Guanciale is ideal, but pancetta or a good quality thick bacon is just fine. The number of eggs varies from recipe to recipe, but the more eggs you use, the silkier and richer the sauce. This version includes pancetta and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. There are other options for cheese—Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, and Asiago—but freshly grated will give your carbonara the best flavor and texture.

The eggs, pasta water, and cheese make up the creamy sauce—there is no need to add cream to this dish. While garlic is nontraditional, you may sauté 4 or 5 minced garlic cloves with the pancetta during the last 2 minutes of cooking time.

Pasta carbonara is easy enough for a weeknight meal, yet it is elegant enough for a dinner party. Some popular variations include creamy carbonara, mushroom carbonara, salmon or tuna carbonara, and chicken carbonara.

"I'm such a big fan of pasta carbonara and this recipe turned out exactly the way carbonara should be. It's rich, creamy, and perfect for a weeknight. Making carbonara can be tricky, but if you follow this recipe step by step, you'll be good to go." —Tara Omidvar

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A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons fine salt, for the pasta water, plus more to taste as needed

  • 2 large eggs

  • 4 large egg yolks

  • 2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese, about 3/4 cup

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more to taste

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 4 ounces diced pancetta, or guanciale or thick bacon

  • 1 pound pasta, such as spaghetti, bucatini, or fettuccine

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Pasta Carbonara ingredients in bowls

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  2. Add 4 quarts of water and 4 teaspoons of salt to a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat.

    Pot with water

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolks together; add the Parmesan cheese and black pepper and whisk until well blended. Set aside.

    Egg, cheese and black pepper mixture in a glass bowl, with a fork

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  4. Heat the olive oil in a deep sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the diced pancetta and cook for about 4 to 6 minutes, or until slightly crisp. Turn off burner.

    pancetta cooking in cast iron pan

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  5. Once the water reaches a boil, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook following the package instructions for al dente pasta.

    pasta cooking in water in large pot

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  6. Remove about 1 cup of the pasta water and set it aside. Drain the pasta in a colander.

    cooked pasta drained in colander with reserved pasta water in bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  7. Add about 1/2 cup of the reserved hot pasta water to the pancetta and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the drained pasta and continue to cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

    pancetta, pasta in cast iron pan

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  8. Gradually whisk about 1/4 cup of the reserved hot pasta water into the egg and Parmesan cheese mixture.

    egg mixture with some reserved pasta water in bowl with fork

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  9. Remove the pan from heat. Gradually add the egg and cheese mixture to the pasta, stirring and constantly tossing with tongs until the sauce is silky and clings to the pasta. Add more of the hot pasta water in order to thin the sauce, if needed.

    egg and cheese mixture stirred into pan with pancetta and pasta

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  10. Serve the pasta with extra Parmesan cheese and a generous grinding of black pepper.

    carbonara pasta with more black pepper and ground cheese

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

Raw Egg Warning

Consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs poses a risk of food-borne illness.

Tips

  • It is important to use freshly grated Parmesan in the carbonara. Otherwise, it will not melt into the sauce properly.
  • Carbonara does not keep well, so it's best to eat it immediately. If you have leftover carbonara, reheat it gently—it will still taste good but will not have the same silky, creamy texture.
  • The pork used should be fatty enough to yield a few tablespoons of drippings.
  • Avoid over-salting the cooking water. You'll be using some of that water to make your sauce.

What's the difference between carbonara and alfredo?

Traditional carbonara is sauced with eggs and contains pork and Parmesan cheese. Alfredo is a rich sauce that primarily contains butter and cheese.

Does carbonara have raw egg?

The hot pasta will cook the eggs enough to thicken the sauce, but not to a temperature that is considered safe. If you are concerned about the eggs in this recipe, you may use pasteurized eggs.


Why is my carbonara dry?

Your carbonara could turn out dry if you didn't add enough of the reserved pasta water or if you didn't add enough egg yolk.

Article Sources
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  1. https://www.seriouseats.com/origins-history-of-roman-pasta-gricia-amatriciana-carbonara